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Cecilia Olivares, NACADA President

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I recently re-read about the historical foundations of academic advising from Terry Kuhn’s chapter in Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook (2008). Kuhn described three eras of academic advising that were each shaped by the changing set of needs for students of changing demographics in a changing landscape of higher education. The current era of academic advising (1970s to now) is defined by examined activity and includes the establishment of NACADA, the NACADA Journal, and the first association conferences and events (Kuhn, 2008).

As I pondered each era and the transitions between them, I could not help but wonder if 2020 is the year that defines the start of the fourth era of academic advising. Accessibility, affordability, and accountability concerns in higher education are compounded by the rapid pace of technology and innovation and the state of racial inequities and disparities and marked by the COVID-19 global pandemic. This year, colleges and universities pivoted rapidly to deliver classes and services virtually to students, deliberating how to balance the health and safety of their communities and the financial stability of their institutions while maintaining the spirit of who they are, what they do, and what they strive to be. Adaptability and innovation are critical to institutional survival and for our roles as academic advisors and campus administrators.

The same is true for NACADA as an association. After cancelled events this past spring and summer and many conversations similar to those occurring on college campuses, in NACADA leadership, we made the difficult but necessary decision to convert the annual conference to a virtual platform with plans to do the same for our spring events. This shift has impacted how and when we conduct meetings and trainings within the association. Most of our association committees, advisory boards, and advising communities hold meetings in-person during the annual conference that are open to all members in attendance. This year, many meetings were spread throughout October and November via Zoom and continue to be accessible to all members, regardless of virtual conference participation.

Within the NACADA Board of Directors, we have also adjusted how and when we meet to fulfill our responsibilities around strategic planning and resource allocation for the association. As a Board, we typically would be together for meetings immediately before and after the annual conference and during mid-year meetings in the spring. Instead, our conversations are limited to two-hour time blocks to accommodate our nine board members in three countries across six different time zones—an interesting challenge, but also an incredible testament to the diversity and globalization of our association.

Whether or not we as advisors are on the cusp of a new advising era, we are moving forward with significant changes within NACADA. In her final Academic Advising Today column, past president Erin Justyna noted the work of the 2019–2020 Board to review and bring closure to many of the strategic goal benchmarks established in 2017 and the start of a review of NACADA’s mission, vision, and strategic goals. Shortly after the virtual conference at the beginning of October, the 2020–2021 Board of Directors met to review our role as a Board and to set the foundation for updating the mission, vision, and strategic goals, which will be a primary focus for the Board this year. The Board will also prioritize support and resources for the implementation of recommendations from the Region Review and Professional Development Committee’s gap analysis, as well as those anticipated from the Race, Ethnicity, and Inclusion Working Group. These are significant efforts that inform decisions as we navigate supporting advising professionals and the students we serve through this pandemic and prepare for a post-pandemic higher education experience.

It is an honor and privilege to be involved in these conversations within the association. I encourage you to continue to share your thoughts and suggestions for what NACADA and academic advising could and should look like in the next decade—and then let’s close the door on 2020 and usher in the exciting, necessary changes with the start of the new year.

Cecilia Olivares, President, 2020-2021
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising 
Director of Transfer Center & First Generation Student Initiatives
Interim Director of Discovery Center
University of Missouri-Columbia
[email protected]


Justyna, E. (2020, September). From the president: Opportunities in chaos. Academic Advising Today, 43(3). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/From-the-President-Opportunities-in-Chaos.aspx

Kuhn, T. (2008). Historical foundations of academic advising. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (p. 3–16). Jossey-Bass.

Cite this article using APA style as: Olivares, C. (2020, December). From the President: A new era of academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 43(4). [insert url here] 


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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.